Each October marks another Great California Shakeout, a month-long event designed to educate people about earthquake preparedness. As an aside, the month also brings the worst holiday of the year. Imagine the horror of hearing the doorbell dozens of times in one night! Halloween is dreadful to pooches. Don’t you know we’re allergic to chocolate? What’s the point?
Held annually in California, and many other states, The Great Shakeout offers expert resources and an earthquake drill that happens at exactly the same time all across the state. This year’s Shakeout will take place on October 15 at 10:15 a.m. PST. With more than nine million individual participants, the Shakeout will drill people from businesses, schools, museums and more.
Drop, Cover, and Hold On are the instructions for anyone participating in an earthquake drill. Lucky for us, our four legs provide us with a stable base. The exercise reinforces several actions to take during and immediately following earthquakes:
- Cover your head with your arms and take shelter under a desk or table. Ignore the old advice about finding a doorway to stand under. Instead, move towards a desk or table (if they are close by). The next alternative is to move to the corner of a room and place your hands over your head.
- Don’t try to go outside. It’s safer to be inside a structure, especially with the associated risk of falling glass and other debris that might shake loose during the quake. The ground during an earthquake is unstable, so you could potentially injure yourself if you move around too much. Keep your pets close by after the quake as they’ll likely be freaked out!
- Move slowly away from large hanging pictures and heavy bookcases. I have several “dogs playing poker” paintings in the doghouse. Good thing they’re secured with epoxy-strength glue!
- Once the shaking stops, take a minute to remember proper evacuation procedures. Leave the building in a quick and orderly fashion.
- If you are on a sidewalk near a building, try to enter via the lobby, to avoid falling glass. If you are on a sidewalk during a regular day, then maybe keep your hands off the fire hydrants. We pooches occasionally like to “greet” the hydrants.
- Stay alert for aftershocks which can approach the same intensity as the main quake.
The Great Shakeout website offers resources for groups preparing for earthquakes. These include drill manuals for business owners, with tips for creating and conducting preparedness drills. Here are a few great tips from the manual:
- Register your business as a participant at Shakeout.org.
- Simulate actual earthquake conditions by asking employees to stay in the crouched safe position for a minute or longer. I paid a guy five bucks to give our doghouse a good shaking. I’m glad I installed the rebar and steel beams.
- Conduct meetings after the drill to discuss possible ways to improve procedures and communications. Adjust your business disaster plan based on this feedback.
- Designate staff members to be in charge of certain activities after a quake. For example, the Shakeout is a great time to make sure your high-rise building’s Floor Wardens understand their job relative to emergency preparedness and disaster management.
While much of the focus on earthquakes centers on California and other western states, the need for earthquake preparedness is great throughout the country. For instance, Ohio and other Midwestern states experience occasional strong quakes. In fact, a massive quake in 1812 reportedly caused parts of the Mississippi River to flow backwards. A 7.3 quake struck South Carolina in 1896, and remains the strongest East Coast quake in recorded history. Dangerous earthquakes can happen in any part of the U.S., so building managers and owners should be certain quake preparedness is part of any disaster plan.
Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time–not just during October. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about our system, or to subscribe, click here.